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Question
I'v never written a book before, but I'm an avid fantasy reader. I just started writing a fantasy novel a few months ago...I love it but I'm not sure I'm "doing" it right. I've started from the beginning and I'm going through it from start to finish. I've never written a short story or even taken any classes, so I'm wondering if maybe my approach is wrong. Should I focus on the intense points of the story (they flow much easier for me) and fill in the blanks as I go, or is there some tecnique I'm missing all together?
 I'm also terrified of taking ideas (albeit vague ones) from other fantasy books I've read in the past.

Answer
Christen:

When it comes to "how" to write a book, there aren't any hard and fast rules to follow.  As for myself, I've always preferred the start-to-finish method.  But there have been times, albeit not often, when I've written an especially important scene as it comes to me, whether or not it's "time" for it in the progress of the book.  So do whatever works best for you.  Keep in mind, though, that as you progress through the book, the more likely it is that eventually things will stray from how you first envision them.  So if you've written, early on, a scene that isn't going to take place until chapter 15 of your book, don't be surprised if when you reach chapter 15, you have to change a lot about that scene you'd written, because it no longer fits!

I do, however, strongly recommend that you learn some things about writing before you fall too much in love with the piece you're working on.  The majority of us writers start as avid readers and then decide to write.  But being an avid reader and lover of literature does not make us good writers.  Yes, you can pick up a lot from observing how writers write... but few readers pay real attention to the technique in the books they read; they're too busy enjoying the story!  (And of course, that's what we, as writers, want!)

So take some classes.  Read half a dozen or more books on fiction writing.  There are plenty of great books out there, and any decent-sized bookstore will have several.

Now, you SHOULD be terrified about using ideas from other books that you've read.  More importantly, you should be concerned with taking ideas from other books you HAVEN'T read.  Certainly, you can't read every book out there in your genre.  But you CAN read a very good sampling of them.  Read the classics.  Read what's currently popular.  But when you see something resembling your ideas, don't become dejected.  As the saying goes, "There's nothing new under the sun."  That may be, but there's always a new way of approaching those things under the sun.  So take the ideas you want, then twist them up!  Change key aspects of it.  Change the people involved, the locations, etc.  These things alone can't help but change the ideas (if you're good at what you do).  

So in short, don't be TOO afraid about lifting other ideas.  Just make sure you make the ideas YOURS by putting your own personal spin on them.

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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